Friday, June 22, 2012

Part 2 - A Case for Joseph Smith; A Case Against Polygamy

A Case for Joseph Smith; A Case Against Polygamy

“NOTICE.  As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan.  This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.  – JOSEPH SMITH, HYRUM SMITH, Presidents of said Church.”

“Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.” – 2 Nephi 9:34

Joseph Smith vehemently preached against and opposed polygamy until the day he died.  Brigham Young and several others close to Joseph Smith rewrote Church history to bolster their claims in support of the false polygamous doctrine.

As stated in Part 1, Joseph’s first alleged polygamous wife (of approximately thirty-four total wives), Fanny Alger, supposedly married Joseph in early 1833 when she was only sixteen.  Among many others, Helen Mar Kimball, age fourteen[1], supposedly married Joseph in May 1843 (Joseph would have been thirty-seven).  Furthermore, supposedly Joseph adulterously married ten other women who were already married at that time (discussed below).
Did Joseph engage in what any reasonably moral person would consider severe opprobrious behavior under Judeo-Christian standards?  For example, would a stalwart member of the LDS Church share the story of Joseph’s polygamous relationships with his or her children as a model of God’s chosen servant?  Why not?  If God truly commanded Joseph to engage in this conduct, shouldn’t every member of the LDS Church proclaim the doctrine from the rooftops notwithstanding the social repercussions? 

Instead, most LDS Church members and leaders (including President Hinckley) have acknowledged the polygamy doctrine but quietly consider it embarrassing and attempt to avoid any discussion of the matter.  Why does this “revealed” LDS doctrine (D&C 132) feel so wrong to so many good men and women of the LDS faith? 

Moreover, why would God reveal a doctrine rightfully considered reprehensible to good men and women around the world that would forever stain and stifle the growth of Christ’s church?  Millions of honorable men and women familiar with the alleged Joseph Smith story will have nothing to do with the LDS Church based on a genuine and rightful disdain of Joseph’s reported polygamous crimes.  Why would God severely and irreparably injure his own Church?  Then, if the doctrine was that important, why would God then have the Church distance itself from its own practice?

My mother, a firm believer in the LDS Church, stated several times to me that she would not have joined the Church if she had been aware of its claimed origins and belief in polygamy.  As a missionary I was instructed to never bring up polygamy unless it was in response to a direct question.  How many others have joined the LDS Church ignorant of the Church’s true polygamous hidden past and current doctrine – a knowing material omission under legal contractual standards?
Joseph Smith – A Moral Contradiction?
Several LDS scholars have published their confusion as to the apparent moral contradiction of Joseph Smith.  For example, Richard Bushman, and LDS scholar, wrote in Joseph Smith – Rough Stone Rolling (sold in Deseret Book):

Of all the events, the resumption of plural marriage was the most disturbing.  After marrying Fanny Alger sometime before 1836, Joseph, it appears, married no one else until he wed Louisa Beaman on April 5, 1841 in Nauvoo .  .  .  . In the next two and a half years, Joseph married about thirty additional women, ten of them already to other men.  Nothing confuses the picture of Joseph Smith’s character more than these plural marriages.  What lay behind this egregious transgression of conventional morality?  What drove him to a practice that put his life and his work in jeopardy, not to mention his relationship with Emma?  Was he a dominant male whose ego brooked no bounds . . . .

The marital status of the plural wives further complicated the issue.  Within fifteen months of marrying Louisa Beaman, Joseph had married eleven other women.  Eight of the eleven were married to other men.  All told, ten of Joseph’s plural wives were married to other men.  All of them went on living with their first husbands after marrying the Prophet.  The reasons for choosing married women can only be surmised.  Not all were married to non-Mormon men:  six of the ten husbands were active Latter-day Saints.  In most cases, the husband knew of the plural marriage and approved.  The practice seems inexplicable today.  Why would a husband consent?”  Id. pp. 437, 439 (emphasis added); see also (which has the names of the husbands).

Even stalwart LDS members, 99% of which are unaware of these facts, would likely find the above practice (if Joseph’s name were omitted) sickening, contemptible, and deserving of world-wide condemnation under any moral standard.  Why the confusion?  Why the contradiction?  Why the embarrassment?  Why the “secret” doctrine?

The LDS Church’s more current position on polygamy only adds to the controversy as it incessantly strives to distance itself from its polygamous roots and doctrine. 

For example, on September 8, 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of polygamy in an interview with Larry King:

HINCKLEY:  “The figures I have are from – between two percent and five percent of our people were involved in [polygamy].  It was a very limited practice; carefully safeguarded.  In 1890, that practice was discontinued.  The president of the church, the man who occupied the position which I occupy today, went before the people, said he had, oh, prayed about it, worked on it, and had received from the Lord a revelation that it was time to stop, to discontinue it then.  That’s 118 years ago.  It’s behind us.”

KING: “But when the word [polygamy] is mentioned, when you hear the word, you think Mormon, right?”

HINCKLEY:  You do it mistakenly.  They have no connection with us whatever.  They don’t belong to the church.  There are actually no Mormon fundamentalists . . . .”

KING:  “President Hinckley, when the press pays attention to it, it does affect you, certainly, in a public relations sense?”

HINCKLEY:  “It does, because people mistakenly assume that this church has something to do with it.  It has nothing whatever to do with it.  It has had nothing to do with it for a very long time.  It’s outside the realm of our responsibility.  These people are not members.  Any man or woman who becomes involved in it is excommunicated from the church.[2]  (Emphasis added).

The above quotation is cited directly as the LDS Church’s official position on polygamy.  See 

Shockingly, President Hinckley also said that polygamy was “not doctrinal” during the same interview:  “I condemn [polygamy], yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal.  It is not legal.  And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law.  We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.” 

In stark contrast, D&C Section 132 states that polygamy is the “new and an everlasting covenant; and If ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory” and “for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.”[3]  Furthermore, polygamy is still permitted in LDS temple sealing ordinances.  Not surprisingly, neither D&C Section 132 nor the practice of polygamy performed in LDS temples were mentioned on the Church’s website or by Hinckley during his interview with Larry King.

Do President Hinckley’s responses above fairly and accurately portray the LDS Church’s current position on polygamy or are his responses inherently obfuscatory and deceptive?  Of course, Hinckley must be familiar with D&C Section 132 and the LDS Church's practice in temples.  Is it possible that Hinckley that Hinckley was attempting to reveal that D&C Section 132 was false?    

Again, if D&C Section 132 was a revelation by God, why is the LDS Church so concerned with distancing itself from its clear command and even appears to lie about its applicability in the modern LDS Church?

Furthermore, if the LDS Church does believe in “obeying and sustaining the law," as stated by Hinckley and as written in the Articles of Faith, why did Joseph, Brigham, Hyrum, et al.  purportedly all engage in the illegal practice of polygamy? 

Indeed, unknown to most members of the LDS Church, certain revisionists, including members of the former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ, have claimed that polygamy did not originate with Joseph Smith but with Brigham Young who knowingly departed from Joseph’s direct revelations and instructions.  Most people would scoff at these revisionists and have claimed that the “evidence is overwhelmingly against this contention.”[4] 

Notwithstanding the self-serving and false suggestion that the “evidence is overwhelmingly against this contention,” there is substantial evidence that Joseph Smith was not the originator of polygamy and never endorsed it.  In their book Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Richard and Pamela Price forcefully concluded that the polygamy doctrine originated from a combination of (1) the conversion of the polygamous group known as the Cochranites, (2) the malefactor and slanderer Dr. John C. Bennett (a prime enemy of Joseph Smith), and (3) Brigham Young and his Cochranite supporters.  In addition, the Prices argued that Joseph and Hyrum Smith not only never endorsed polygamy, but repeatedly fought polygamy and tried to eradicate it from the church.  Moreover, due to the lies of Dr. Bennett, William Law, Brigham Young, et al., Joseph and Hyrum were murdered as a result of the polygamous lie.  Unfortunately, Joseph and Hyrum lost their battle against polygamy and the majority of the members followed Brigham Young down a false doctrinal path. 
Joseph Denounced Polygamy and Anyone Who Taught It
Although the extent of Joseph’s condemnations of polygamy is entirely ignored by the LDS Church, the fact that Joseph deplored polygamy is generally not disputed.  However, without ever addressing how often and how vehemently Joseph denounced polygamy, apologists of the polygamous doctrine weakly claim that Joseph had to lie about polygamy or Joseph and the Church would have faced immediate ruin from its enemies. 

It is strange how quick the LDS Church is willing to claim that its own Prophet, Seer, and Revelator was a seasoned liar and shied away from controversy.  First, this would seem to be a clear violation of 2 Nephi 9:34:  “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.” 

Second, as poignantly explained by Joseph’s son, Joseph Smith III (who was 11 ½ at Joseph’s death), Joseph never shrunk from controversy: 

“To assert that Joseph Smith was afraid to promulgate that doctrine [polygamy], if the command to do so had come from God, is to charge him with a moral cowardice to which his whole life gives the lie.  Nor does it charge him alone with cowardice, but brands his compeers with the same undeserved opprobrium.  The very fact that men are now found who dare to present and defend it, is proof positive that Joseph and Hyrum Smith would have dared to do the same thing had they been commanded so to do.

The danger to the lives of those men would have been no more imminent, nor any greater in the preaching of ‘Celestial Marriage,’ than it was in preaching the ‘Golden Bible’ and the doctrine that Joseph Smith was a prophet blessed with divine revelation.  For the preaching of these tenets many lost their lives; Joseph and Hyrum Smith were repeatedly mobbed, were imprisoned and finally died, in the faith originally promulgated, but—if we may judge from their public records,—not believers in polygamy.”  Joseph Smith III, Reply to Orson Pratt [tract], 4.

Third, would God truly accept His servants’ repeated and incisive condemnation of God’s own purported “new and everlasting covenant” as expedient under the circumstances?  Wouldn’t God protect his servants in proclaiming his true doctrine?  To hold otherwise, would seem to deny the protective power of God, as shown for example to Samuel the Lamanite[5], or his servants’ belief in exaltation in the afterlife notwithstanding the persecutions of men.

But what if Joseph, Hyrum, Emma, and other leaders of the Church were telling the truth and not cowardly liars as claimed by the LDS Church?  What if Joseph Smith (and Hyrum Smith) never entered into polygamous relationships with girls as young as fourteen (as if this is this a ridiculous and apostate question to ask)?  What if Joseph Smith was the victim of a doctrinal conspiracy that originated with Dr. John C. Bennett, Brigham Young, and William Law? 

Please continue to Part 3 (

[2] For an online transcript of the interview, see
[3] D&C 132:  “1.  Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines.  2.  Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.  3.  Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.  4.  For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.  5.  For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.  6.  And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.”
[4] Journal of Discourses, vol. iii, p. 266.  “It has been claimed, chiefly by the sons of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the founders of what is known as the ‘Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints’ that Joseph Smith never introduced the doctrine or the practice of the plurality of wives in the church; but the evidence is overwhelmingly against this contention . . . there is a large collection of affidavit upon the subject in the files of the Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City, a number of which – ten in all – are published in the Historical Record, together with many less formal statements and evidences.  Some of the affidavits are from women who were married to Joseph Smith, and some by those who performed the ceremonies . . . and other person whose relationship to Nauvoo events gave them exception opportunities to know the truth of the matters whereof they testified.”
[5] See Helaman 13-16.


  1. Hi Benjamin, I'm an investigator, and maybe you can help me on this issue. As much as I can appreciate your sincerity in your desire to defend Joseph Smith, how do you get around the fact so many LDS historians list somewhere between 27 and 55 plural wives of Joseph Smith. Most troubling to me, personally, are the 11 who were married to living men and the 14 and 16 year-old's who recorded their prophet's proposals in their journals. Your thoughts are appreciated.

    1. Hello Second to One. Thank you for reading. At one time, I certainly shared your concerns regarding Joseph supposedly marrying a fourteen and sixteen year old. See Part 1. I also never questioned the veracity of it since it was supported by pro-Mormon historians. They were wrong and I was certainly wrong! Joseph was innocent of polygamy.

      I would recommend that you read through each part of the entire 10-part series "A Case for Joseph Smith; A Case Against Polygamy." I go into much more detail in answering your questions. The short answer to your question, which I believe is proven in the 10-part series, is that all of those historians have operated under the wrong assumption. The affidavits and journals (all written dozens of years after Joseph's death) are fraudulent. Joseph was monogamous until his murder. Brigham Young used his authority to influence many women and men in Utah to falsify their testimonies in support of the abhorrent doctrine. Once you weigh the evidence (e.g., not one child has been discovered through DNA to be the offspring of one of Joseph's supposed plural wives, the falsification of Church records by Young and his followers, Joseph's denunciations of polygamy, Joseph's family's contrary claims, etc.), I believe that you will also conclude that those historians have simply neglected the issue.

      First, we have an interesting agreement between pro-Mormon historians and anti-Mormon historians - they never question whether Joseph Smith practiced polygamy (e.g., both pro- and anti- Mormon historians believe Joseph married a 14-year old girl when he was 37 and engaged in adultery by marrying women that were already married). However, at least several historians have expressed their confusion regarding Joseph and polygamy (e.g., see the quotes of Van Wagoner in the 10-part series). Van Wagoner did not understand why Joseph so vehemently and repeatedly denounced polygamy while Joseph supposedly practiced it in secret.

      Thus, mainstream or pro-Mormon historians never question the affidavits of Joseph's supposed plural wives and the anti-Mormon historians only support the same claims since it casts Mormonism in an immoral light. They read the same affidavits and journal entries without ever questioning the possibility that they were falsified even though they were written dozens of years after Joseph's death. Because the pro- and anti- sides of Mormonism have always assumed the polygamous stories were true, very few historians have ever attempted to question the underlying issue of whether Joseph truly practiced or revealed polygamy. That is why the work of Richard and Pamela Price is so amazing. I don't suspect that you ever will have a pro- or anti- Mormon historian who will examine the issue due to their inherent beliefs, at least not until we can raise a big enough furor over the topic.

      Second, as proven in my series and more professionally established in the Price's book, Brigham Young and his followers were liars and deliberately falsified affidavits and records. Without question, D&C Section 132 was a complete fabrication. See my latest post on William Clayton. If Brigham was so willing to fabricate a false revelation under the name of Joseph Smith, he certainly would not have been opposed to having others falsify their testimonies. What is also interesting, is that all of the people who recorded the affidavits and polygamous journal entries were practicing polygamists in Utah. Most, if not all, of the women affiants were polygamous wives to the Utah LDS Church leaders. It is clear, that they could have been influenced to falsify their testimonies just as Brigham Young.